Running Time: 92 mins
Rated: Rated M (moderate sexual references and coarse language)
Noah Cooper (Shepherd) is 29 and happily married, but things change quickly. Firstly Noah is fired from his job as physiotherapist just as his wife Clare (Tyler) announces that she wants to have a baby as soon as possible. At the same time Clare's socially awkward cousin turns up for an extended stay in their home while he does a screenwriting symposium. To top it off Noah's parent's 30 year marriage breaks up and his mother Marilyn (Keaton) moves herself and her five dogs in with Noah and Clare. She takes over their house and their lives.
What is it these days about yesterday's movie divas making contemporary comedies about being dragon mothers? In 2005 we had Jane Fonda in Monster-in-Law and now we have Diane Keaton in Smother, which could just as easily have been called Monster Mother. The idea of an unbearable mother is hardly new territory for a film and this particular one brings nothing fresh or interesting to the mix.
That said, there are some funny scenes and a few good setups, but they are mixed in with some unnecessary crudity and sexual innuendo which reduces the film to the level of schoolboy hilarity.
There are also some elements in the film which are very distracting. Liv Tyler's Clare is so breathy one could think the audience will soon find out she is dying of emphysema. Nothing would surprise me in this script.
And while we all know that Diane Keaton's neck must never be seen, her turtle-necked-sweater eccentricity is now starting to steal her scenes.
The downtrodden suburban wife Marilyn is also a compulsive eater, except she has a 24 inch waist and the sort of fitness only Hollywood personal trainers can get out of their most famous clients.
This overwritten, overacted film left me wanting to suggest to Noah to build an Ark and get the hell out of the dysfunctional world he had allowed to engulf him. The film opens at Halloween, the traditional day when we warn off evil spirits. It is hardly an accident in the script. I just wish Noah took it heart and got a good Exorcist to help him out, and that could have been funny.
Smother is only for the coldest and wettest of days, and, even then, only if you must.
Taloyred Films Out May 8
Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the director of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting